Biannual information on the counterfeiting of the euro

22 January 2004

In the second half of 2003, a total of 311,925 counterfeit euro banknotes were removed from circulation. (This figure includes recoveries from both euro area and non-euro area countries.)

The breakdown of this figure by denomination is shown below:

€5 €10 €20 €50 €100 €200 €500 Total
Quantity 2,365 2,792 95,233 162,774 39,736 8,510 515 311,925
Break-down by denomination (IN %) 0.8 0.9 30.5 52.2 12.7 2.7 0.2 100

The total represents a 30% increase compared with the figure for the first half of 2003, when the rate of increase over the six-month period prior to that was 59%.

The total number of counterfeits removed from circulation during the whole year (551,287) was about 20% lower than the total number of counterfeits of the legacy currencies reported by the euro area national central banks in 2001.

Anyone can readily identify the overwhelming majority of counterfeit euro banknotes by using the simple FEEL-LOOK-TILT method described in the Eurosystem’s information material. The ECB advises the public not to be unduly concerned about the chances of receiving counterfeit banknotes, but always to be alert to the possibility. The public can be confident of the quality of euro banknotes and their security features. Even well-produced counterfeits can be spotted by a careful inspection of these features. Another way to check the authenticity of a banknote is to compare it with one known to be genuine.

The ECB cooperates very closely with Europol, Interpol and the European Commission in the fight against counterfeiting. Anyone who receives a counterfeit should hand it in either to the local police, or to the central bank, giving as many details as possible about when and how they acquired it.

The number of counterfeits needs to be put in context: there are around 9 billion (genuine) euro banknotes in circulation and approximately 120 billion cash transactions per year involving euro banknotes.

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